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What Happens After Being Charged with a Crime?

Posted on in Criminal Law

waukesha county defense lawyerBeing charged with a serious crime is terrifying. Your mind may be inundated with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Your job, your quality of life, and your freedom are suddenly at stake.

The unknown is part of what makes an indictment so scary. What happens next? The criminal process is difficult to navigate; criminal law is vague and complicated.

Furthermore, not all charges are treated the same. The nature of the crime largely dictates what happens next.

Misdemeanor v. Felony

Generally speaking, all crimes can be divided into two categories: misdemeanors and felonies.

In the State of Wisconsin, felonies are considered more serious crimes than misdemeanors. Distinguishing between the two is simple: Felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of more than one year, while misdemeanors are punishable by less than a year of incarceration.

Stages of the Criminal Process

  • The Initial Appearance - The initial appearance is the defendant’s first formal appearance before a judge. They will be read the charges against them and informed of their rights. Additionally, the judge will decide whether they will await trial in or out of jail. If they must remain behind bars, bail will be set. Finally, the accused is given a chance to enter a plea, but only if the crime is a misdemeanor. If the case is a felony, a future court date will be set.
  • Preliminary Hearings - If the defendant is accused of a felony, they have a right to a preliminary hearing. At this stage, the State will present evidence of probable cause; in other words, it presents evidence to the judge that a felony has probably been committed and that the defendant is probably the perpetrator.
  • Pretrial Conference - By the time of the pretrial conference, the defendant knows of the evidence in the State’s possession (police reports, witness testimony, etc.). The defendant may be given the chance to accept a plea bargain at this stage. If a plea bargain is accepted, the defendant admits guilt for reduced charges. If a plea bargain is not accepted, the case will proceed to trial.
  • Trial - The accused is entitled to a jury trial by their peers. The trial may last multiple days, and both sides are given the opportunity to present evidence. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

 Contact at Waukesha County Criminal Defense Attorney

Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP knows a good attorney does more than interpret the law and argue in court; they appreciate the circumstances facing their clients, offering candid advice and an empathetic voice throughout the criminal process.Our lawyers believe everyone is entitled to a good defense and that those charged with a crime still have rights. It is this belief that drives our work every day.If you need a Waukesha County criminal defense attorney, call Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP today at 262-232-6699 for a free initial consultation.



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